Adapting curriculum to student with traditional experience
Found in: Students with Prior Experience
Jaclyn O., Tennessee
I have a potential student that has had around two years of traditional lessons, some of which has been spread out over several years, so may not be the strongest of two years. She just finished her freshman year of high school. Mom tells me she plays by ear very well. The may not be all that strong with reading music. Mom believes the student memorizes more than actually reads. She has told me that I may want to spring music on her each week to work on sight reading, to make sure she’s really reading. She likes the idea of Simply Music and is fine with not taking a traditional approach.
Here’s what I’m trying to figure out: Mom says I’d likely have 2-3 years with her given she’s already in high school. With that in mind, I’m trying to determine how to cater to her wants/needs and the 2-3 year time frame. I’ve only taught Simply Music for around 16 months. I just now have a student entering Level 4 this week and that same student is still in the early stages of learning to read intervals. I’m not done with the Level 4 training myself…just to give you an idea of where I am in my progress.
All of my students thus far have come to me as complete beginners. I know exactly what to do with them! I’m concerned that with only 2-3 years and the fact that she has had some prior playing experience, that I shouldn’t attempt to do everything in the program. Or, maybe it means we can move fast through the first few levels. I do believe she would probably benefit from going through the Simply Music Reading Notes program since mom says she’s not a strong reader. Maybe not all of Reading Rhythm, but more of a higher level check…again, maybe a faster approach than someone with no prior experience.
I can still imagine teaching Dreams at lesson #1, but quickly jumping to an arrangement since she may be ready for something more complicated. Would you do that as playing-based or as a reading project? I know for sure we’d start Accompaniment early on, as I don’t believe she has much (if any) real chord knowledge. I also think maybe Tune ToolKit would be good for her since she loves to create.
I would love some advice from those of you who have taken on a similar student. Do you just start at the beginning like everyone else and just see how far you can take it in 2-3 years? Or do you pick to leave some things out strategically…skip over certain songs that are more necessary if you’re dealing with a true beginner? I’m sort of thinking I’d start with Level 1 as usual, but go ahead and be working on Reading Notes since she has experience, to build on what she already knows. No need to wait for her to play 30-50 Simply Music songs. Work on building her reading ability now, while also working on playing-based strategies. Thoughts?
Nancy W., Texas
In my experience of taking on students with 2+ years of traditional lessons, I ask them to demonstrate what they have gained in the two years of study, like play some favorites, and they could not demonstrate anything. So I start from the beginning, adding in arrangements as I can and definitely Accompaniment. I taught traditional piano for 10+ years and never knew about incorporating Accompaniment, which is now my favorite.
Maybe you could start Reading Rhythm early. I did not, same with Reading Notes. I am following the plan and everyone seems happy.
Susan M., Canada
I had two students with three years of traditional, and they started at the beginning. They needed to learn the learning strategies, and I was clear at the beginning that they need to be able to explain the diagrams, start the songs from different places, and play along with the audio. I encouraged them to trust me and I had to get their agreement that it would feel/seem different for a while.
Once they learned some Level 1 songs, Arrangements began too. I made sure they had the practice requirements/habits that were also missing from previous lessons. There’s a lot to cover so I’d never consider skipping any material. I’d also make sure she can play the pieces on the practice pad.
Follow the curriculum as designed – don’t rush reading. There is so much to learn, and reading adds extra thought processes. I believe it will get in the way of learning the playing-based strategies.
Composition is important too. I found Tune ToolKit to be challenging to understand how to administer it until I got through it all first myself. It took time, but I would consider using other composition ideas from Simpedia too. I think there is so much depth and breadth you can add to each piece. If they have a strong commitment for regular practice, they can cover a lot of material and become great musicians in two years.
Leeanne I., Australia
I never skip anything in the program as SM has a unique approach to learning. I just explain at the beginning that we will be going over a lot of things they already know, but I need to make sure they know everything. I introduce all the streams at the same time as I would a complete beginner. Even though the parent says the student may only be with you for a couple of years, they may decide to continue on themselves.
Heidi M., Canada
I would not skip anything either. Most of my students with prior experience need some time to adjust to the new approach (using patterns and other playing-based tools) and I think it would do them a disservice to rush them through it too quickly. They love the arrangements and especially the Accompaniment material which helps them to feel they have something more challenging to work on.
Stephen R., California
Don’t rush into reading, otherwise this becomes a different form of a traditional approach. Reading is delayed in the beginning while students do so many other things: build a repertoire, learn all these playing-based tools and strategies, compose, improvise, learn chords, read chord symbols, learn variations and arrangements. There is so much content in SM. I’ve gotten prior traditional students that are amazed at the results after just a few songs and weeks of lessons.
The program is so extensive that I never want to feel pressured to rush through things. We’re teaching students (and parents) patience, discipline, perseverance, practice habits, management…many things!
Leeanne I., Australia
I just had a first lesson with a new student, a 17-year-old with extensive piano experience, musical theater director, voice coach, and he composes his own music! I talked about how his mindset starting this program is very important and asked him to imagine he is learning in order to teach. The initial attitude is so important, and this is a great way for these students to view it.
Ian M., Indiana
Almost everything that’s already been said here can be summed up in one short sentence: Trust the method. There’s nothing in your post that would suggest short circuiting or rushing anything, at least to me. And if you trust the method, your students will too. Parents are another story, and it may take more than one conversation – or a constant conversation – to get them on the same page.
Kerry V., Australia
I always start people from the beginning regardless of their previous experience. We are teaching a new way of learning and they need to become familiar with that. It has always worked out for me doing it this way. And I don’t expect they will necessarily go faster than newbies. Sometimes they take longer as they may have some ‘unlearning’ to do.
Jaclyn O., Tennessee
I took all your advice and started her like everyone else. Both student and mom are very happy. The student is more happy about taking a break from notes!